Sunday, March 19, 2017

New Drawings and Paintings from Conrad Gessner

Art and Environment
History of Science
by Edward Hessler

Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner (1515 - 1565) is known as the founding father of zoology, a term and college major that has nearly disappeared as its many branches have become more dominant in the curriculum and research more specialized. He is the author of Historiae Animalium (Accounts of Animals), the first published work that included not only descriptions but also illustrations.

The work, developed from 1551 - 1558, was a heroic effort to list and describe every animal in the world. It was based on many sources and the result is that mythical animals are included — but as described in the biography linked above, Gessner also placed a new emphasis on direct observation rather than the hand-me-downs which had been used for centuries.

Gessner's illustration of a rhinoceros [Wikimedia]

In 2012, Florike Egmond discovered a 16th-century collection of drawings and water colors which had been collected by Gessner. The Guardian has published some of these lovely drawings and paintings.

Professor Egmond is the author of the recently released Eye for Detail: Images of Plants and Animals in Art and Science 1500-1630.

h/t: Gordon Murdock

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